2. Chapter 2
Once they had settled back in, my father and brothers resumed the running of Dol Amroth and suddenly I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. At first I enjoyed catching up on my reading and being able to take Tuilin out whenever I wanted, but those pleasures soon palled on me. While I did not wish for the anxious times of the war to return, for once in my life I had felt truly needed. Compared to that, sitting in the garden reading a book soon got boring.
So it was with considerable excitement that I learnt that another celebration was planned at Cormallen, one year after the Dark Lord's downfall. And this time I would be able to attend, unlike the year before when I had been too busy organizing supplies to be shipped upriver. Everybody would be there as well: our new king and queen, Faramir and his bride, the King of Rohan and all the nobility of Gondor. Father seemed determined that the Dol Amroth party should outshine all the others and planned to take a large contingent of minstrels and musicians along. As for myself, he insisted that I had a whole chest of new gowns made up.
We took ship for Minas Tirith in the middle of March, and after spending a night in the White City travelled further upriver to Cormallen. Due to favourable winds we were actually one of the first parties to arrive and managed to secure the best place for our camp, right by the small river that flowed into the Anduin. And then, a couple of days later, the two kings arrived.
Eirien nudged my elbow in excitement. "Here they come!"
I craned my neck. Noble ladies weren't supposed to indulge their curiosity like the common folk, but I had talked my maid into slipping out of my tent and mixing with the crowd that gathered to watch the arrival of the King and Queen of Gondor and their royal guest. I would not be officially introduced to them until the celebrations commenced the next day, but I wanted to at least catch a glimpse of them first.
The sun was setting. It turned the fresh green leaves of the birch trees growing along the edge of the glade translucent and glinted off the spearheads of the guards. A cheer went up when King Elessar and Queen Arwen arrived and the king waved his hand in recognition as he dismounted. As for the queen, she seemed to gather in the remaining sunlight and spin it around her in a luminous sheen. A shiver of awe ran down my spine.
The rest of the party was in no particular order, Gondorian nobles and Rohirrim mixing freely and talking to each other. A fat merchant in front of me, keen to show off his knowledge, named all the important personages to his wife and I listened with half an ear.
"There's the Rohan king," he said.
Curious, I looked to see where he pointed. The man was huge! Built like a bear, with wide shoulders and a thick neck, he looked every inch the accomplished warrior. A reddish tinged beard bristled on his face and as he guffawed at something one of his companions said to him, his laugh rang across the clearing. I had imagined him younger, but apart from that he looked just as the stories from the war had painted him.
Then his companion leant forward and I got a shock. Tall, sitting his stallion with easy grace and surveying the glade as if he owned it: my courier. Quickly I ducked behind the merchant, although he was hardly likely to spot me. What was Léona doing talking to King Éomer? And he seemed to be on quite friendly terms, I saw, as I chanced another glance. But the crowd was dispersing, and I risked discovery if I lingered much longer.
Eirien seemed to think the same, for she was tugging my sleeve. "We have to go now, my lady."
Deep in thought, I let her escort me back to our encampment. I suppose I should have realized that I might meet Léona at Cormallen, but his presence at King Éomer's side still surprised me.
"Don't you know that too much thinking is bad for you, Sister?"
I looked up to find Amrothos grinning at me. My youngest brother was leaning against one of the tent poles, a mug of ale in his hand.
"Don't you know that too much drinking is bad for you?" I countered.
He laughed and took my arm, nodding a dismissal to my maid. "And where have you been?"
"Just looking around."
We sauntered down in the direction of the river, where willow trees lined the bank, trailing their long fronds in the water. Soon the noises of the camp receded behind us and crickets took up their song. The rich smell of moist earth filled the air as we approached the water.
Amrothos sat down on the riverbank with his legs dangling over the water and balanced his mug on a flat stone covered with moss. With a plop a frog jumped in. "And did you happen to see anything interesting while you were looking around?" my brother asked.
I chose a convenient root to sit on and leant back against the trunk. The tree bark was rough and scratchy. "Perhaps a king or two."
"Ah, I thought as much. And what did you think of them?"
Why this sudden, uncharacteristic interest in my opinions? I shrugged. "I only saw them from afar, but King Elessar seemed quite friendly. He waved to the crowd."
"And what did you make of King Éomer?"
A boat appeared round the river bend, being rowed with rhythmic strokes by a young man, who had baskets full of eggs piled up in the prow. The camp had engendered a brisk trade in food, with people bringing in their produce from all over Ithilien.
I watched the ripples spread across the water as the farmer went by, oblivious to our presence. Amrothos was up to something, I just knew. But what?
"Well?" he prompted.
"He's very much the warrior," I answered, feeling my way cautiously.
He made an impatient gesture with his hand. "The ladies of Minas Tirith found him rather attractive. They swarmed around him like bees around a honey pot."
"Or like sharks around a wounded seal? The ladies of Minas Tirith would find anything wearing a crown attractive."
Conceding my point, he chuckled. "Still, you have to admit he's very handsome."
Handsome? Perhaps if you liked them burly and with lots of hair. But I really did not care for the way this conversation was going.
"Why are you asking my opinion of Rohan's king?" I demanded to know.
He bit his lip. "Lothíriel...you realize that he is extremely eligible?"
"Of course he is, but..." I stopped midsentence, struck by a sudden, awful suspicion. "Amrothos! You can't be saying he is interested in me?"
He shifted his weight uncomfortably. "A bit more than that actually..."
I jumped up. "How can there be more!"
My brother rose, too. "Father did not want to tell you yet, but I think it's not entirely fair." He took my hands. "Lothíriel, remember all those couriers riding in from Rohan over the winter?"
I nodded mutely. Of course I remembered them!
"When we were in Edoras for King Théoden's funeral, Father mentioned having a marriageable daughter to Éomer and they arranged for the two of you to meet here in Cormallen..."
That seemed harmless enough, but I could tell my brother hadn't finished yet. "And?"
"But then Éomer suddenly wrote to take up negotiations for your hand. Father was reluctant at first, but you know how much we owe Rohan."
I did not need to be told how much. Quite likely none of my family would have survived if it hadn't been for the Rohirrim. And they had paid dearly for coming to our aid.
When I didn't answer, Amrothos squeezed my hands. "I know it must be a bit of a shock, but I am sure you will come to like him. He seemed very keen on the match." His voice took on a trace of desperation when I still did not answer. "Lothíriel, say something! I just wanted you to know before you meet him tomorrow morning, so you can get used to the idea."
To the idea of spending the rest of my days in a country I did not know with a man who looked old enough to be my father? And it was all coming together in my mind: the Prince of Dol Amroth mentioning having a daughter, a trusted courier being sent south, the sudden offer for my hand.
Amrothos was watching me anxiously. "Lothíriel?"
I swallowed down the lump in my throat. "Amrothos, when did the King of Rohan send his offer? Before or after you returned from Minas Tirith?"
He frowned in confusion. "Some weeks after we got back, if I remember correctly. But why do you want to know?"
"Never mind." I withdrew my hands and took a step back. "I would like a little time on my own now."
My brother regarded me uncertainly. "You won't do something silly, will you?"
I shook my head. "Of course not. But it's not every day that I'm told my future has been decided for me by my menfolk."
I could not keep the bitterness out of my voice and he winced. "Lothíriel, I'm sure it will all turn out for the best. Éomer might be a little rough round the edges for Gondorian tastes, but he's a good man, honourable and true. I got to know him well on the march to the Black Gates and there's nobody I'd rather have for a friend."
So spoke Amrothos, whose requirements of a friend were a ready blade and a large capacity for drink! I turned my face away. "I need some time alone...please, Brother?"
He lingered for a moment longer, but when I would not look at him he fled, muttering something about getting changed. I sank down onto the ground. All around me, white wood anemones dotted the green moss: the colours of Rohan. I buried my face in my hands.
King Éomer had offered for me! And how could I possibly refuse one of the saviours of Minas Tirith, brother-in-arms to our own king? Who had no doubt got an exhaustive report of my looks, how I walked and how I talked, and of my prowess as a horsewoman. A report delivered by a man he trusted. I knew Léona owed me nothing, had probably just followed his king's orders, but still a deep feeling of betrayal filled me. Oh yes, it all fell into place.
As for my family, my own father did not even feel it necessary to consult me regarding my wishes for a husband. So much for having earned some respect through my hard work during the war. Father treated me no better than a pampered broodmare, to give away as a gift to his new friend!
Amrothos had left his mug of beer behind, and on an impulse I picked it up and threw it into the river, where it vanished with a splash. But a heartbeat later the water had smoothed over again, not caring one whit for the problems of a poor mortal.
I don't know how long I sat there, my heart and mind numb. As the dusk deepened, bats flew around me in their quest for insects and somewhere a nightjar gave his whirring call, but I could not find the energy to get up and return to the camp. Would my maid miss me? But perhaps Amrothos had told her where I was.
Then another boat glided by, hardly more than a pale shadow in the night, and voices floated across the water. All I caught were a few snatches of conversation: the deep bass of a man, a woman answering him, talking about everyday concerns. How I envied them! If only I could get away as easily and leave all my troubles behind.
It was then that the plan sprang to my mind, fully formed in an instant, and unfurled in all its beautiful simplicity.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.